Congman arrested for bribing BJP MLA

| 28 April 2001 22:55 IST

Engineering defections by making lucrative offers and toppling governments is a common feature nowadays in Goa. But first time the 'ethics of secrecy' is being broken in the political circles here, exposing the topplers.

Based on a complaint filed by ruling BJP legislator Vinay Tendulkar, the CID (crime branch) has arrested Khemlo Sawant, district secretary of the Congress under charges of abatement of corruption.

Tendulkar has alleged that Sawant offered him Rs 15 lakh and a cabinet berth, if he splits and joins the Congress to form the government.

The opposition Congress has however dismissed the charges, though local party president Nirmala Sawant does not deny that moves are on to form alternate government headed by the Congress.

The ruling BJP consists of 20 members in the 40-member House today, ruling with the support of two legislators of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party while few others are supporting from outside.

The Congress, after readmitting some of the defectors, has swollen to 14 though it requires minimum seven more to form its own government once again.

Tendulkar alleges that he was approached as the seventh MLA, as told by Khemlo to him, since party president was not in favour of forest minister Prakash Fadte being brought into the Congress along with others. He has however not named any other colleague of his from the BJP.

After getting elected with 10 members in the House, the party later admitted 10 Congress defectors to come to power in October last year.

Francisco Sardinha, former chief minister of defectors' government who was recently readmitted into the Congress, felt that their party colleagues who are presently in the BJP should come back to the party fold, to form alternate government.

Goa PCC president Sawant however said none of her leaders had made any such move through 22-year old Khemlo, to lure the BJP legislators. "It is an attempt to divert attention from the Tehelka controversy and worsening law and order situation in the state", she alleged.

The Congress has made a hue and cry over Khemlo being arrested at midnight like a wanted murderer. But Lavu Mamledar, the police inspector, has made a complaint that he was kept a hostage till 3 am by Khemlo's neighbours, forcing him to sign a letter that he was bribed Rs 10 lakh by chief minister Manohar Parrikar to kill Khemlo.

While the police have sought Khemlo's remand till 12 noon tomorrow, Mamledar said they would also try and find out at whose instance Khemlo had made the offer.

Whether the police would make any breakthrough in the case is still a question, but the incident has definitely put the Congress on a defensive while hectic moves are on to topple the five-month old BJP government.

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